Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Market as a Prison

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Modern liberalism and its offspring, the welfare state, have dominated American politics since the 10s. Both have received a great deal of criticism, from both the left and right. For many conservatives, the welfare state violates the rights of property, derives people of their liberty, is inefficient, unfairly favors certain organized interests, and creates a dangerous dependency on the state. Critics from the left have argued that the welfare state is dependent on the success of capitalist firms and thus remains captive to the investment decisions of the a narrow group of corporate executives and their shareholders. However, both American conservatives and liberals share some variations of neo-liberal thought that accept the tension between the welfare state and the private marketplace. Events in recent years have strengthened these similarities (Levy ).

The welfare state is not the only part of American culture and politics that has been imprisoned by the American economic market. The people of America have found themselves disillusioned and unable to define themselves and identify with others without the help of the corporate state. The sense of community that this country started out with and prided herself upon for several centuries has been replaced with a certain type of individualism based on competition, greed, and selfishness.

The economic market has become more and more the myth that it can solve all of our problems, both as an individual and as a country. The great deception that former President Ronald Reagan successfully pulled off on the people of this country in the 180s is ever-present decades later. The former Republican president gave us the notion that individual economic greed leads to common economic gain is one that contributes to our shackles and chains that truss us to our economic market and the corporate state. President Reagan so efficiently and thoroughly deceived the citizens of this nation that he was able to construct a deep ideological contradiction in American life. According to the myth that he advanced, capitalism is both individualistic and conservative, thought the terms of that proposition are mutually contradictory. Although by some degree, capitalism is motivated by individualist attitudes and attributes, capitalism is not individualistic. The economic market creates an interdependence of workers dependent on other workers, workers dependent on factories, makers dependent on distributors, and so on and so forth. This interdependence facilitates an environment that diminishes the importance and reliance on the abilities and responsibilities of an individual worker in the capitalist system and the market.

It is strange to see capitalism posing as an individualist, but it is even more anomalous for capitalism to act as the voice of conservatism. Conservatism, in a minimal definition, wants to conserve; but capitalism is an instrument for change, for expansion. The capitalist system is driven toward ever-new resources, products, and evolving markets. It reorders life drastically. Capitalism changes people from providers of self-sufficiency to specialists in a factory, whose reward for imposition of uniformity and regularity in their lives is the hope of a richer return from ever more distant parts of an expanding market. In fact, there is nothing less conservative than capitalism. It expends, in order to expand; it razes to rebuild, it destroys to employ.

The economic market in America wields tremendous influence over society, culture, and politics in America. It wields so much influence that we have became a slave to it and we are allowing it control all of our interests and distort our perspectives. The loss of identity and community for individuals is reason enough to see the destructiveness of the market and capitalism, but what is even more disturbing is the imprisoning of institutions and policy-making in the political process. Our major political actors in Washington, D.C. are too often concerned with the economic ramifications of their actions, decisions, or votes on too many policy areas to take indispensable and efficient action. Policy areas such as the environment get thrown to the wayside because it is seen as a necessary expenditure in a system controlled by monetary incentives and corporate agendas. By allowing the market to dominate our political process, we are allowing the market to weaken democracy and diminish the capacity for growth and progress toward being a better and stronger nation. Permitting such blatantly harmful effects on and a defilement of the political environment of this country is a travesty and one that should not be taken lightly.

Being imprisoned takes away how one defines his self, his life, and his beliefs. Bound by rules, conformity, and habit, one loses his identity, his self-worth, and sense of purpose. The warden, the prison guards, the state does not see every man incarcerated as a single, distinguishable and unique person, but rather as a collective force that must be dealt with as such. As prisoners, the concern with the everyday function is not a high standard of living, or growth as a person, or even identification with those around you. The emphasis is order, routine. Life becomes mechanical; the person becomes a cog in the machine. This is the analogous to how we are treated when we deal with capitalism and the market. We are no longer distinctive individual human beings; we are consumers that must be dealt with as a collective force. Every element and variable must be controlled to make sure that the system (the market) is treated as the number one priority and everything else is secondary. The market confines our society; the market limits our thinking, the market hinders political policy-making. The market is our prison.

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